Table of Contents
- My Virtual Phone Service Preferences
- What I personally use, in this order:
My Virtual Phone Service Preferences
Free: Google Voice
Google Voice – awesome for a side hustle business, free, easy for anyone to use. I personally will not use this for my business lines, which you can see why below.
– Can’t get toll free or 800 numbers
– No MMS
– Number pool sucks – generally leftover used numbers
– No call recording
– Not truly owning the number scares me when it comes to sweat equity/starting a business (if you lose the number you’re fucked… YellowPages listings, any advertisements, everything will be instantly outdated)
Under $15/mo: Grasshopper Phone System
Grasshopper – cheap forwarding number service without quality issues, great for contractors, or any service based business that serves customers at their location, and never has an office. While using the voice studio is expensive, for some tradesman, recording a professional greeting is simply not possible, so $75 fee for a voiceover is cheap because it affects their estimate booking ratio for the rest of the year. Grasshopper is a good fit for anyone who isn’t going to do tech savvy things like call tracking.
– Can’t add phone adapters or desktop phones
– No softphone app for remote live answer services
– no call recording
Under $10/mo: Phone.com’s Flexible Business Phone Lines (the best landline alternative on the market in my opinion)
Phone.com – the most flexible phone service I know of for the money, and my go-to recommendation for anyone who is unsure of what they’re going to need for their business. Ultra accommodating with cheap business lines and the free smartphone app just like GoogleVoice and Grasshopper, but unlike both of those, can accommodate a growing business with phone adapters and desk phones, all without switching providers (and no number porting). Rock solid, and I would trust my own business long term on this provider, and their call recording > transcription > email delivery to specified recipient (per line) is the cat’s meow if you run any kind of magazine advertisement, billboard ad, or anything where you want a true ROI calculation. (impossible to get without call tracking)
– Expensive for add-on services that come standard elsewhere
– No others that I know of
Under $25/mo: Ring Central’s Office Plan Landline Replacement Service
RingCentral – Pricey and resource rich for most small businesses, and most will never use the full system capability. But their ability to support multiple brick and mortar locations, transfer an inbound live answer call from a secretary to a mobile device for a salesman out in the field, is unparalleled. Video conferencing is a nice touch if that’s your thing, and is one of the best in the biz.
– The price. Too expensive as a base plan for the average small business
– Sales agents will typically try to get you in a contract in exchange for a discount (not a problem, I just hate dealing with that shit)
What I personally use, in this order:
Grasshopper – cheap business line on a cell phone, no reliability issues, solid long term, nothing shady with losing number “accidentally”, acquired by a large publicly traded company (cisco) that has a lifetime of experience in networking (quality will only improve post acquisition)
Phone.com – the most flexible virtual phone provider I know for the money. I use this when we setup a lead gen campaign for a new business, and if it ends up taking off and making money, we can upgrade and order an office phone for staff without having to port numbers or deal with any hassle. Time is money at that point.
RingCentral (only when I have to) – My least favorite, but it’s hard to deny when you have a client that needs fancy multi-location support, with call tracking analytics on everything. The ability to setup custom complicated call routing is the best in the business.
Further random explanation just to add context… This was my response to using paid phone services for small business lines instead of relying on free services and why:
Why Can’t I Just Use A Cheap $1/mo Forwarding Number?
You can grab a cheap forwarding number from places like Callture, Etollfree, Evoice, Kall8, 800.com, etc… but the interfaces are pretty antiquated and cost small business owners more money in terms of time. If you have a guy that started a brick and mortar, and they’re taking it online when they reach around $200k/yr, ease of use is super important, as well as added feature sets without switching platforms. The difference between a virtual number forwarding service (Google voice, evoice, grasshopper, etc..) and a business voip provider (RingCentral, Phone.com, 8×8, Kall8, etc…) is actually having phone hardware support, which would mimic a $4k in house office phone system from the old days.
Plan Pricing VS Unlimited Minutes VS Advertised Base Price
Then there’s pricing discrepancies, whereby most but not all offer initial buckets of minutes, and then charge by the minute thereafter. For example, Kall8 is super cheap to setup a toll free line at $2/mo, but comes with zero bucketed minutes in the plan. A real life example of this, is my two lines that hardly get any calls that I still have on Kall8, cost about $19/mo simply from the sales calls and general bullshit solicitors. This would be cheaper if I moved them to phone.com or grasshopper, or whoever offers an upgrade for unlimited minutes on an extension for a set price. I’ve never switched them for years however, because porting numbers is a pain in the ass, and there is always a fee for it.
Call Quality Compared To Pricing: How Much Is $10 Worth To You In Terms Of Frustration?
Then comes reliability and trustworthiness. A lot of these companies are simply resellers, and the quality of their network is subpar, and it shows in the call quality of their lines. For example, Twilio is one of the cheapest providers in the biz, but the lines are also super staticky and connection quality is frequently awful. Even if another provider costs a dollar or two more per month, or even $10, I prefer recommending companies like Grasshopper since they’re backed by Cisco.
Point being… at some point gotta bite the bullet with solutions for these needs with solid recommendations.
Free Business Phone Line Services VS Paid: Are You Really Saving Money In The Long Run?
So eventually, we kind of run out of options to recommend that cater to the freebie crowd, and have to settle on something to stop chasing our tail all the time. To a small business making money, a $50/mo expense is extremely nominal, and most are happy just save anything over their landline contract. Even one man shows like contractors who operate on the go, still typically save money over going with a local phone company like AT&T, CenturyLink, etc… And they love the ability to add custom phone tree auto attendant greetings to make them sound like a big company. (i.e. – press 1 for sales, 2 for billing, blah blah… something that is hard to do with landline or ultra cheap virtual business lines usually under $5/mo)
Some small businesses are stuck in 200-$300/mo contracts for a two line service at their B&M stores… which is highway fucking robbery! Point being, putting ourselves in those shoes, almost anything is a huge savings especially being no contract.
What phone service do you use, and what do you think?